Not since Apple’s heyday under Steve Jobs have we seen such hype around a tech company. But just what is setting this Californian car brand apart from all the other desirable electrical designs out there?
It’s a grey Swedish morning and we’re gearing up for a much-anticipated opportunity to test-drive the new Tesla S, the brand’s latest premium model.
We climb into the passenger seat, and off we go. This car certainly makes you smile, and maybe even let out a little ‘woop’. It soon became clear that a quick drive in a Tesla had a similar effect on the rest of the Screen Interaction team. They weren’t just smiling, they were grinning from ear to ear. So what was it about the user experience that made it such a pleasure?
Most of them answered the same; the blissful silence inside the car, combined with the power of its engine, is what makes it feel different – and pretty awesome. The barely audible hum inside the car was certainly something that we appreciated, too, along with the sense of space.
What’s more, the quiet electric engine is even more impressive when you consider that the Model S is the world’s quickest production four-door ever, according to Tesla. But then, wouldn’t you expect an extraordinary experience, given that the Model S is priced at around 70,000 US Dollars?
With good reason, there’s been much debate in the media about self-driving cars, and although we didn’t test the auto-pilot mode, just the idea of it proved popular with the Screen Interaction team.
“I think it would be super cool if everyone had self-driving cars. It would be possible to make traffic efficient,” says Ida-Maria Isaksson, project manager and designer. “But turning it on when you’ve never tried it before would be scary, since you have no prior experience with it, and you don’t even know anyone else that has that experience. So learning to trust it would be a huge leap for me.”
Frederic Medan, another of the Screen Interaction test-drivers, offered a different view, saying “Stephen Hawking recently warned about giving control to machines, but I believe that if the machines obey the rules of robotics and artificial intelligence, they could be very helpful. They could avoid a lot of human errors, and robots never get tired.”
There’s no getting away from the fact that Tesla cars are expensive. So how can an electric car that might cost more than a year’s salary persuade drivers to switch from a cheaper, fossil-fuel-powered model – even if the experience is superior?
“It’s all about quality and the change which the car is bringing in competing with fossil fuel driven cars,” noted my colleague, Basel Altishe. “People complain about the cost of the car, but then you get what you pay for”.
Still, the price hurdle is something that Tesla are aware of, with the upcoming Model 3 aiming to woo value hunters with a more affordable price, around half of the Model S. And that’s something that many more people will want to get on board with.
Professor Ulla Johansson Sköldberg is a pioneer in researching the relationship between design and profitability.